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Last week, we covered National Business Aviation Association's national convention in Las Vegas. If you missed any of it, you can find our three issues of coverage here:
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Photo: Windsor Flying Club

It took up to six hours for anyone to notice that a Canadian-registered Cessna 172 had crashed and burned at Nashville International Airport, killing the pilot. It appears the pilot of the aircraft may have attempted landing unnannounced at the major airport but details are sketchy. The Tennessean says the aircraft, registered to the Windsor Flying Club in Ontario, is estimated to have crashed sometime after 3 a.m. on Runway 2C, the middle of three parallel runways at the airport. Nashville's tower is staffed 24 hours a day. The FAA has so far refused to offer details of the crash, citing the ongoing investigation. The crew of an airplane taxiing about 9 a.m. reported debris on the runway to controllers who notified maintenance workers. The workers discovered the charred remains of the aircraft and the body of the pilot.

So far, CNN says the FAA isn't saying anything about the incident, including how many controllers were on duty, whether the aircraft was under active control or whether any distress calls had been received. Canada's Transportation Safety Board says there was apparently "no communication from [the 172] to air traffic control in Nashville." An unidentified spokesman told CNN that there was low visibility and fog overnight. The pilot's name has not been released and his or her nationality isn't known. The FAA, NTSB, TSB and local authorities are involved in the investigation. “We will want to understand what the circumstances were that caused it to go undiscovered for so long,” NTSB investigator Peter Knudson said.

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Embraer plans to assemble its new fly-by-wire Legacy 450 and 500 business jets at an expansion of its Melbourne, Fla, operations. The company announced Tuesday that, subject to various approvals, the company will add an assembly line for the midsize aircraft in 2014 and the first Legacy 500 will be delivered from there in 2016. Embraer currently builds Phenom 100 and 300 aircraft in Melbourne as well as operating a paint facility. It also has an engineering and technology center that will get its permanent home next year. “Some 50 percent of our executive jet deliveries go to the U.S. and more than 60 percent of the aircraft content comes from U.S. suppliers and industrial partners, so this is a natural step forward to the benefit of our customers,”  said Embraer CEO Fred Curado. 

The Brazilian planemaker also has an assembly plant in Jacksonville for the Super Tucano light attack aircraft. Florida Governor Rick Scott was on hand for the announcement. Embraer concentrated on its new midsize aircraft at last week's NBAA convention and announced that Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan will be the launch customer for the 500, which he'll get in 2014. The first 450 will be delivered in 2015. In addition to fly-by-wire controls, the two jets will include a head-up display with enhanced vision by Rockwell Collins and the 500 will have what Embraer says is the "largest cabin in its class."

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Professional pilots who fly at high altitudes for business or commercial aviation are exposed to as much radiation as workers in nuclear power plants, and that exposure is climbing as airlines fly polar routes more often, according to NASA. During a typical polar flight, pilots are exposed to the equivalent of two chest X-rays, an exposure rate 3 to 5 times higher than flights at lower latitudes. "Multiplied over the course of a career," says NASA, "this can cause problems such as increased risk of cancer and possibly cataracts." The space agency is working on its models for predicting the intensity of radiation so flight planners can alter course to avoid the most intense radiation events.

A research report, forthcoming in the journal Space Weather, compares NASA's radiation predictions to actual measurements aboard aircraft. "The results are encouraging," said Chris Mertens, a senior research scientist at NASA Langley Research Center. "But we still have work to do." Mertens said the goal of the effort is to adopt a simple-to-understand, timely report similar to weather forecasts. The polar flights are popular because they can save up to $40,000 per flight in fuel costs, while altering course to avoid a polar radiation storm can cost as much as $100,000. Improved forecasts could "help the airlines to make the right decision" to protect the health of pilots and passengers, according to NASA.

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The NTSB has found no evidence of tire malfunctions on a Cessna Citation that crashed at Santa Monica Airport last month, according to the safety board's preliminary report. At least one eyewitness had reported at the time that a tire blew out during the landing. In its report, the NTSB said on-scene investigators found no airplane debris on the runway, and all three landing-gear tires were inflated. The tires showed no unusual wear patterns. The local tower controller said the pilot didn't express any problems over the radio before or during the landing. All four people on board were killed when the airplane ran into a hangar and a fire ensued.

Witnesses reported that the airplane made a normal approach and landing, the NTSB said. "The airplane traveled down the right side of the runway, eventually veered off the runway, impacted the 1,000-foot runway distance remaining sign, continued to travel in a right-hand turn, and impacted a hangar structural post with the right wing," according to the NTSB report. "The airplane came to rest inside the hangar and the damage to the hangar structure caused the roof to collapse onto the airplane. A post-accident fire quickly ensued." The flight had originated at Hailey, Idaho. The owner of the jet, Mark Benjamin, 63, was killed in the crash, along with his son, Luke, 28. Lauren Winkler, 28, of Irvine, and Kyla Dupont, 53, of San Diego, also died. Mark Benjamin, who is believed to have been the pilot, was CEO of a construction company, where his son worked as a project manager.

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Sure it’s a little smoggy in this bustling central Chinese city, and the high-rise apartment blocks shooting into the sky often blot out an infrequent sunshine fighting to burn through the mist. Construction is rampant, and locals quip the new Chinese national bird is “the crane.”

You could say my feelings were also a little smoggy when I boarded our 13-hour non-stop Air China flight from JFK to Beijing, China’s gateway. I came to this vast country not knowing what to expect, and quite comfortable in my assumptions. That is: China’s relatively sudden thrust forward in general aviation is long on hope and short on reality. I came believing China’s effort at putting on an air show and aviation conference would never rival Oshkosh or NBAA.

My prejudices were naïve and incorrect. The energy at the third annual Chinese International General Aviation Convention was palpable. And I came away believing that China has all the essentials to build and fly world-class airplanes, to train pilots for its business, commercial and even civilian sectors, and to create from scratch an entire industry to support its aeronautical ambitions. They quite actively discuss a Chinese Moon shot, certainly within the Chinese space program’s reach, and building an aviation infrastructure will be just as challenging—but just as do-able.

Still, the things we take for granted in the States don’t exist here, or are in limited supply: City-convenient airports, fuel tankering and delivery, air-route structures and nav-aids, most importantly a free and unfettered air traffic control system. Our ability to decide on any given morning to file a flight plan, enter IMC and fly in congested airspace, receive vectors and radar advisories, then safely let down precisely on an ILS are things that don’t happen routinely in this country.  But success is often written in identifying the unmet need: so American aviation leaders take note…As the City of Wichita and Cessna Aircraft Company have learned, there is opportunity where industries start small, and have a long view.

The Chinese have a driving national will, hoardes of yuan to invest, and smart leadership. China’s acquisition of leading brands and technologies like Cirrus, Mooney and Continental Motors attest to a knack for buying well those things they can’t make. There is substantial industry-government cooperation in the development of Chinese aviation, largely because in many instances the industry IS the government.

But that’s not enough. There has to be a national will to accomplish large national goals in any society. Judging from the huge crowds at the Peucheng air show—who evinced an Oshkosh-esque enthusiasm-- China’s population at all levels is simply fascinated by airplanes.

As Cessna’s Shijiazhuang-based general manager David Howard told me: “They have such tremendous enthusiasm. That’s where you start.” Their excitement suggests a significant national drive to make aviation happen in China. In America we had a century of building to establish our aerospace system. First NDBs, then VORs, now a ubiquitous GPS system. And we have heroes—the Wrights, Glenn Curtiss, Chuck Yeager, Burt Rutan—larger-than-life personalities who took us all forward. China’s sheer mass of money and talent, and the aviation sector’s vibrant energy evident in abundance in Xi’An, will in my judgment be enough to carry Chinese aviation forward.

The question is when. How long will it take?  It took the Chinese thousands of years to build The Great Wall, stretching 1500 miles east to west. Thirty-feet high and festooned with massive watch towers, each brick weighs 24 pounds and they are stacked 30 feet high. The builders of the Great Wall simply had a different concept of time than you and me…

Time, to them, was irrelevant. That’s why questions of “when” as it pertains to Chinese aviation don’t really matter. They are already solving the “if,” and the “why.” And they are well on the way to resolving the “how.” For now, these are simply details. The big picture is written on the faces of all those aviation enthusiasts in Peucheng. It’s in the smile of the little Chinese kids when they look up in the sky and see an airplane…

Join the conversation.  Read others' comments and add your own.

David Clark DC PRO-X

New range, new power, new jet with more room -- from Dassault.  Unveiled at the National Business Aviation Association exhibition held in Las Vegas in October 2013, the Dassault Falcon 5X is the company's latest offering.

Beechcraft's King lives on with new upgrades in the 350i model.

Pilatus Aircraft has seen great success with their PC-12 single-engine turboprop.  The manufacturer is now venturing into the jet market with the PC-24 twin jet -- a corporate comfort aircraft capable of flight in and out of unimproved airstrips.

Eclipse Aerospace president Mason Holland delivered the first Eclipse 550, boasting new upgrades to a customer at the National Business Aviation Association exhibition in Las Vegas, October 22, 2013.  The aircraft hosts avionics upgrades and enhanced and synthetic vision systems.

Nextant Aerospace has hade a business of "remanufacturing" the Hawker Beechjet 400A/Hawker 400XP -- offering a new aircraft experience at a used aircraft price.  Now it's expanding that business model to the King Air, refitting the aircraft with GE engines.

Rockwell Collins brings enhanced vision to light jets with the EVS-3000 vision system and HGS-3500 display, which employs a new space-saving design.  The company will bring the products to market with Embraer in 2015 aboard the Legacy 450 and, later, Legacy 500 business jets.

U.S. Sport Aviation Expo || Sebring, FL || January 16-19, 2014